Special Report: In Venezuela’s murky oil industry, the deal that went too far

Even for Venezuela’s notoriously opaque economy, it was a sweetheart deal that went too far.

Last August, state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA issued one of its largest tenders in recent years: a multi-billion dollar project in the Orinoco Belt, the world’s largest crude reserve. The project was designed to shore up the OPEC country’s stagnating oil production and ease an economic crisis.

Then, out of the blue, a tiny Colombian trucking and trading firm with no relevant experience beat global industry leaders to win the contract, worth around $4.5 billion according to one PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] document. Alarm bells rang among PDVSA’s foreign partners, which include Chevron (CVX.N) and Rosneft (ROSN.MM).

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